In Summary: We are wrapping up John, and will be done with his Gospel next week. I appreciate you who read and keep coming back. More than words can say.
John starts chapter 20 with the trip of Mary Magdalene to the Empty Tomb. The Synoptics show us Mary Magdalene and others going, but John emphasizes her there. It is possible that she makes two trips, one alone and one with other women, or that she arrived before everyone else. It is hard to say with certainty—the fact that she travels “before dark (v. 1)” shows us that she went very early. This was a clock-less society: time was governed by the sun. Making it somewhere in the dark showed a commitment above and beyond.
Then we get the travel of Peter and John to the Tomb. It is empty. They are just not certain what to do with this reality. More on that in a minute.
We get the Upper Room, where there is discussion and debate about what has happened, and then Jesus shows up. Right in the middle of everything. Debating and discussing stops in the presence of Jesus. Fear does not, and the disciples are afraid of many things right now.
Well, most of the disciples. Thomas is not afraid to run an errand or two and miss the gathering. We have no idea why—though I have heard this used as a reason not to miss church! He may have been tending to a loved one. He may have been working on something important.
And our focus on Thomas goes the wrong way. We see his doubts, but we should his confession: “My Lord and My God!” This is stronger even than most of the other disciples.
Finally, we get the word from John that this is not the whole story. This wraps (with the addition of John 21) the earthly work of Jesus with his disciples, but there is more. More that occurred, more that will occur as God redeems His people. But this is enough. Let the whole world be filled with the rest of the story: people who walk in faith and serve the Truth.
In Focus: For a quick focus, let us go back to Peter and John in the Empty Tomb. We see that John gets there first, then Peter. Notice the difference in the verbs describing their reactions?
John looks in from outside, but does not go in. Peter barges in, looks, and then leaves. John then goes in, looks, believes, and then goes home.
In Practice: From this, let us take our practical ideas:
1. Get as close of a look as necessary. Read, read, and listen to Scripture and get a close look at the Gospel. Read even the critics of Christianity, but read honest critics and tough responses—do not be confused by reading the tough critic and wimpy defenders of the faith. (Or the other way ‘round!)
2. When you see, though, do not hesitate to believe. John believes because he’s putting together all that has been said. Peter’s not quite there yet.
3. Be cautious in how you treat those who have not seen what you have yet. Remember the “yet:” Thomas did not believe “yet.” But he does come in time. Imagine if the disciples had locked him out for asking tough questions in the beginning?
4. Go home when you must, but reassemble with the believers when it is time!
In Nerdiness: A good point gets raised regarding the timing of the crucifixion and how to reckon with three days. It is worth noting that John, like the other Gospel writers, points us to the Resurrection “on the first day of the week.”
However we argue that out, this is a good place to start. It’s also why we have church on Sundays. I think that couples with another truth: we owe God the first and best place in our lives. What better way than starting the week by giving Him the day?
Saturday for us, as a day of rest. Sunday opens the week in worship and praise, doing the work of the Lord to set the tone for the rest of the week. True, there are times that does not work—but does it not work because it has to not work or because we just will not make hard choices?